Mark Twain tells stories so well one never knows how much of it got confused in fiction. It was he who once said, and I don’t remember where, that he never let facts get in the way of his fiction. But let’s assume this story happened. One time Twain was asked to write the Introduction to a translation of the evidence presented in the Joan of Arc Trials and Rehabilitation.
He was pleased to write for this editor. The reason he was pleased was because the editor had made so many wonderful compliments of Twain’s prose. So he did his best to live up to the glowing praise by putting some extra work into the Introduction. (The story is found in the new Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1.)
Before he got the Introduction back from the editor, Twain met someone whose judgment he trusted who told him that the aforesaid editor was not up to the task. Nor was he competent, which was he was not up to the task.
When Twain got the Introduction back he read through it and, knowing he had to respond in a Christian fashion, decided not to follow his friend’s advice in writing back a heated response, and so wrote a blow by blow response to each of the (far too many) edits of the editor.To begin with, when Twain began to see what had been done to his prose, he said “I will not deny it, my feelings rose to 104 in the shade” (166). Then wrote of what he would not call him — “long-eared animal… this literary kangaroo … this illiterate hostler” — “But I stopped right there, for this was not the right Christian spirit” (166).
The volume then provides the entire Introduction with the edits of said editor. Twain’s blow-by-blow response follows. It is here that Twain’s “Christian spirit” emerges so clearly:
It is discouraging to try to penetrate a mind like yours. You ought to get it out and dance on it. That would take some of the rigidity out of it. And you ought to use it sometimes; that would help. If you had done this every now and then along through life, it would not have petrified.
The editor had the habit of adding “quite” and “however” … to which Twain responded once with this: “There is your empty “however” again. I cannot think what makes you so flatulent.”
And on and on, one after another, he goes.
He closes with this:
It cost me something to restrain myself and say these smooth and half-flattering things to this immeasurable idiot, but I did it, and have never regretted it. For it is higher and nobler to be kind to even a shad like him than just.
I could have said hundreds of unpleasant things about this tadpole, but I did not even feel them.